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Stretchable and reflective displays: materials, technologies and strategies


Abstract and Figures

Displays play a significant role in delivering information and providing visual data across all media platforms. Among displays, the prominence of reflective displays is increasing, in the form of E-paper, which has features distinct from emissive displays. These unique features include high visibility under daylight conditions, reduced eye strain and low power consumption, which make them highly effective for outdoor use. Furthermore, such characteristics enable reflective displays to achieve high synergy in combination with wearable devices, which are frequently used for outdoor activities. However, as wearable devices must stretch to conform to the dynamic surfaces of the human body, the issue of how to fabricate stretchable reflective displays should be tackled prior to merging them with wearable devices. In this paper, we discuss stretchable and reflective displays. In particular, we focus on reflective displays that can be divided into two types, passive and active, according to their responses to stretching. Passive displays, which consist of dyes or pigments, exhibit consistent colors under stretching, while active displays, which are based on mechanochromic materials, change their color under the same conditions. We will provide a comprehensive overview of the materials and technologies for each display type, and present strategies for stretchable and reflective displays.
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Stretchable andreective displays: materials,
technologies andstrategies
Do Yoon Kim1†, Mi‑Ji Kim1†, Gimin Sung1† and Jeong‑Yun Sun1,2*
Displays play a significant role in delivering information and providing visual data across all media platforms. Among
displays, the prominence of reflective displays is increasing, in the form of E‑paper, which has features distinct from
emissive displays. These unique features include high visibility under daylight conditions, reduced eye strain and low
power consumption, which make them highly effective for outdoor use. Furthermore, such characteristics enable
reflective displays to achieve high synergy in combination with wearable devices, which are frequently used for out‑
door activities. However, as wearable devices must stretch to conform to the dynamic surfaces of the human body,
the issue of how to fabricate stretchable reflective displays should be tackled prior to merging them with wearable
devices. In this paper, we discuss stretchable and reflective displays. In particular, we focus on reflective displays that
can be divided into two types, passive and active, according to their responses to stretching. Passive displays, which
consist of dyes or pigments, exhibit consistent colors under stretching, while active displays, which are based on
mechanochromic materials, change their color under the same conditions. We will provide a comprehensive over‑
view of the materials and technologies for each display type, and present strategies for stretchable and reflective
Keywords: Stretchable display, Reflective display, Active display, Passive display
© The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
(http://creat iveco mmons .org/licen ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license,
and indicate if changes were made.
1 Introduction
Although emissive displays dominate the commercial
mainstream, reflective displays have interested many
researchers for a long time. Some customers are look-
ing for reflective displays, namely E-paper, to read books
more comfortably and ‘naturally’, even in the open air [1,
2]. Unlike emissive displays, such as light-emitting diodes
(LEDs) and liquid crystal displays (LCDs), reflective dis-
plays do not contain internal light sources and use ambi-
ent light, mostly sunlight [3]. As they use the light from
ambient space, they possess different properties to emis-
sive displays (Fig.1).
First, reflective displays require little consideration
about health issues associated with blue light as they use
natural light which is not enriched at short wavelength.
Displays using LEDs are enriched at blue light region
(400–490nm) [4] Blue light is known to be harmful to
health. It can provoke photoreceptor degeneration, age-
related macular degeneration, and other types of eye
damage under conditions of long-term exposure [4, 5].
LEDs are used for the majority of displays, such as TVs,
phones and laptops. Furthermore, even LCDs, among
other types of backlighted displays, use white LEDs due
to their small size. Blue light is also suspected to contrib-
ute to sleep issues [6]. Reading light emitting E- books
at evening showed more negative results to sleeping
time and depth, compared to reading printed books at
reflected light. It suppressed melatonin and changed cir-
cadian timing. Light emitting E-books commonly show
much higher irradiance of blue light than printed books,
and more blue light can increase alertness which disturbs
deep sleep.
Second, reflective displays can achieve near-zero power
consumption. In both emissive organic light-emitting
diodes (OLEDs) and transmissive LCDs, power con-
sumption is relatively high because they need to generate
Open Access
Do Yoon Kim, Mi‑Ji Kim and Gimin Sung contributed equally to this work
1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Seoul National
University, Seoul 151‑742, South Korea
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
light [3]. Reflective displays do not need to generate light;
they just reflect it; all that is needed is to control the
wavelength of the reflected light.
Also, the readability of reflective displays is superior
under ambient light [7]. e optical contrast of emissive
displays tends to be severely diminished by bright ambi-
ent light. To deal with such problems, emissive displays
need to increase their light intensity [8]. On the contrary,
reflective displays’ readability is improved by bright
ambient light; this makes them strong candidates for use
as open air displays.
Outdoor use in everyday life is inevitable for most
wearable devices. Reflective displays may be a good
option for wearable devices due to their intrinsic advan-
tages with respect to outdoor use. Even though Reflective
displays are good options for wearable devices, existing
Fig. 1 Schematic concept of reflective display. Reflective displays have advantages in outdoor usage due to their superior readability in bright
condition. They consume less power than emissive display as energy for light generation won’t be needed. Reflective displays exhibit natural
light with balanced wavelength spectrum, which is not enriched with short wavelength. Stretchable reflective displays can be classified into two
groups, passive and active. Passive displays do not change their color when deformed, while active displays sensitively change their color due to
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
reflective displays still need something more. ey need
to be stretchable. Stretchable displays are one of the
key components for comfortable wearable devices [9],
so reflective displays for wearable devices must attain
Reflective materials can respond to stretching in two
different ways. Some types of reflective materials exhibit
a consistent color regardless of stretching, because they
use specific dyes or pigments. Other materials change
color when deformed, so they may possess different
display characteristics compared to conventional dis-
plays. We can classify stretchable reflective displays
into two groups, ‘passive’ and ‘active’, based on differ-
ences in their responses to deformation (Fig.1). Passive
displays maintain their color when stretched, like con-
ventional displays, whereas active displays change color
when stretched. In this review, we analyze features of
both passive and active reflective displays, discuss their
specific technologies and provide examples. Strategies
for improving stretchability and addressing other issues
associated with reflective displays will also be discussed.
2 Passive reective display
Passive displays maintain their color when they are
deformed by bending or stretching, because they use
dyes or pigments. For this group of reflective displays,
electrochemical reaction or physical movement of mate-
rial via an electric field is used. e intended color and
image can be presented by controlling the electrical sig-
nal at each pixel. is is one of the most important prop-
erties of displays, ensuring that they show information
clearly in every situation. Also, high resolution and speed
can be expected due to their well-developed technolo-
gies. We now discuss some types of passive reflective dis-
plays that can potentially be made stretchable.
2.1 Technologies forpassive reective display
2.1.1 Electrophoretic display
Electrophoretic displays control the color and brightness
of each pixel by moving charged pigment particles. In
conventional electrophoretic displays, particles migrate
up and down as the direction of the electric field changes.
Grayscale displays with two types of pigment, for exam-
ple, have negatively charged white particles and posi-
tively charged black particles, which are suspended in
clear dielectric fluid. If the white particles are on the side
of the viewer, the pixel reflects white light so it appears
white [10]. ese particles are contained in microcap-
sules between a conductive, transparent top electrode
and a series of rear electrodes (Fig.2a). Indium tin oxide
(ITO) glass is usually used as the top electrode because
it is transparent and has good electronic conductivity.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is mainly used to prepare parti-
cles due to its good chemical and optical properties [11].
Some grayscale e-paper devices, like the Amazon Kin-
dle, have been launched successfully, but further effort is
essential to broaden their applications. For example, the
switching rate needs improvements for showing videos
on electrophoretic displays. To improve the speed, a new
mechanism using hybrid horizontal and vertical move-
ment has been reported. Particles converge in dot-pat-
terned cavities engraved in the plate (Fig.2b). is device
was demonstrated with a low working bias (< 15V) and
a relatively fast switching rate (< 300ms) [12, 13]. Also,
fast response times can be achieved by moving the pig-
ment particles in gas. Electrophoretic displays which use
charged powder can offer response time less than 0.2ms
but require relatively high voltages, from 40 to 70V [14,
ere have been some reports on modifications of
these particles. For example, chromaticity and density
can be improved by coating ionic liquid polymer on the
surface of porous silica nanoparticles [1618]. Electro-
phoretic displays with these particles achieved response
times of 155ms at 0.2mm thickness, which is faster than
that of previously reported TiO2 and silica nanoparticles.
Tridodecylamine has been studied as a charge control
agent for various inorganic pigments and exhibits good
optical properties with fast response times (220 ms at
200kVm1) [19].
Expression of various color is also an important fac-
tor in electrophoretic displays and it can be accom-
plished simply by covering grayscale displays with color
filter arrays (Fig.2c) [20]. However, this structure is not
proper for vivid color because the area of pixel for each
color(RGB or CMYK) is limited by filter. So, it can be
improved by directly generating various color in on pixel
without filter (key). So E Ink Holdings Inc. reported a
three-particle electrophoretic display in one pixel to show
specific colors in one pixel (Fig.2d) [21]. Also, Advanced
Color ePaper (ACePTM) with a four-particle system can
display eight primary colors in each pixel, including yel-
low, magenta, cyan and white (Fig.2e) [22].
2.1.2 Electrowetting andelectrouidic display
Electrowetting displays are based on the wetting effect
of polar solvents under an electric field. One pixel con-
sists of water, colored oil and an electrode coated with
a hydrophobic insulator. With no voltage, the dyed
oil covers the entire pixel area and shows its color
(Fig.3ai). When the voltage is turned on, oil forms a
small droplet so the colored area decreases to expose
the white background of device (Fig.3aii) [23]. In elec-
trowetting displays, ~ 20% of the area is always occu-
pied by colored oil. Only the rest area can show the
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
background color, as a result the difference of color
between on/off state is limited [24, 25].
To overcome this challenge, a new approach for elec-
trowetting displays has been reported, known as ‘elec-
trofluidic’. Electrofluidic displays have reservoirs so that
oil droplets converge to one point. e liquid pigment
can be held in less than 5–10% of the visible area and
the contrast ratio can reach ~ 20:1. e pigment is con-
fined in the reservoir without voltage, but covers the
entire pixel area when voltage is applied (Fig.3b) [24,
25]. e 500-μm square and hexagonal pixels have been
demonstrated. e reservoir comprises only 5% of the
viewable area in the case of hexagonal pixels (Fig.3d).
In electrowetting displays, various color expression
can be achieved by utilizing variety of pigments or dyes.
Appropriate dyes with high chroma and solubility are key
to achieving good display performance. For example, yel-
low electrowetting dye with good solubility in non-polar
solvent was achieved through the introduction of a long
alkyl chain into pyrazole azo dye. A fast switching speed
(17.8 ms), high aperture ratio (68.5 %), low threshold
voltage (24V), good light stability (240h under acceler-
ated conditions) and low backflow phenomenon have
been reported (Fig.3c) [26]. e wettability of the solvent
on the surface also influences the performance of elec-
trowetting displays. Several amorphous fluoropolymers,
Fig. 2 Technologies for electrophoretic display with their diagrams. a Cross sectional schematic of a microencapsulated electrophoretic imaging
film and material of each part. b An electrophoretic display with hybridized vertical and horizontal movements of pigment particles. Microscopic
images of display pixels are shown below. c An electrophoretic color display with color filter array. d An electrophoretic color display with three
different pigment particles in one microcup. e An electrophoretic display produced by E Ink Holdings Inc. Pixel density of 150 ppi in 20 inch
diagonal was demonstrated (Figure reproduced from a [107], Copyright 2012, The Society for Information Display; b [12, 13], Copyright 2012, The
Society for Information Display and The Korean Information Display Society; c [20], Copyright 2008, Optical Society of America; d [21], Copyright
2018, IEEE; e [34], Copyright E Ink Holdings Inc.)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
such as Teflon AF1600 and Hyflon AD60 have been stud-
ied as hydrophobic coatings for water/air and oil/water
contacts [27]. Dealing with such factors appropriately,
GR8 Optoelectronics Ltd. and Liquavista demonstrated
electrowetting displays of various sizes for numerous
applications (Fig.3e, f).
2.1.3 Electrochromic display
In electrochromism, the visible color changes due to
electrochemical reactions. is functionality is possi-
ble due to the reversible redox reaction that changes the
wavelength of the reflected light. Hence, electrochromic
devices include electrochromic materials with electrolyte
layers, and electrodes for redox reactions. ese devices
are typically assembled in a laminate configuration based
on a simple two electrode configuration (Fig.4a) [28].
ere have been many attempts to apply electro-
chromic displays to commercial products, such as
segmented polymer electrochromic displays [29] and
user-controlled eyewear (Fig.4b). Also, various colored
active materials can be generated by mixing electro-
chromic molecules. For example, a brown blend of
Fig. 3 Technologies for electrowetting and electrofluidic display. a Structure and principle of electrowetting display. (i) Without any applied
voltages, a colored oil film covers the pixel. (ii) When a voltage (~ 10 V) is applied, the oil film is contracting and makes the pixel transparent.
b Schematic of an electrofluidic cell without a top plate. c Pixel array of electrowetting display with yellow dye based on alkylated pyrazole
azo structure. d Images of electrofluidic pixels (square type and hexagonal type). Time‑lapse images of a 500‑um‑square pixel is displayed. e
Electrowetting based E‑paper display by GR8 Optoelectronics Ltd. f Electrowetting based display demo by Liquavista (Figure reproduced from a
[23], Copyright 2003, Springer Nature; b [25], Copyright 2012, The Society for Information Display; c [26], Copyright 2018, The Society for Information
Display; d [24], Copyright 2009, Springer Nature; e Copyright 2017, Gr8; f Copyright Liquavista)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
orange and periwinkle has been obtained and utilized
for sunglasses; a transmittance change from + 1.0 and
1.0 V was sufficient for this [30]. Multiple electro-
chromic states can be obtained in one device by con-
trolling the chemical equilibrium. In the case of heptyl
viologen (HV), cation radical monomers (HV·+) show
blue color and dimers ((HV·+)2) appear maroon. e
chemical state can be changed by applying different
voltage (Fig.4ci) [31]. However, coloration and bleach-
ing time is a significant issue for various applications
(Fig.4cii). For high switching speeds and good durabil-
ity, devices with viologen-anchored TiO2 nanoparticles
and antimony-doped tin oxide (SnO2) nanoparticles
were fabricated. ese were stable even after 30,000
cycles driving at a speed of 4Hz [32].
In short, the color variety and reaction speed of each
pixel are important factors determining the performance
of electrochromic displays. However, high switching
speeds are only available in monochromic devices made
of specific materials. To achieve applications beyond win-
dows or glass, it is necessary to address these issues with
electrochromic displays.
2.2 Passive reective display withexibility
Flexible electrophoretic technologies have been reported
for the next generation of e-paper. One example is flex-
ible electrophoretic display modules driven by organic
thin-film transistor (OTFTs) backplanes on plastic film
from E Ink Holdings (Fig.5a). e optical performance
of this 6’ 166 ppi flexible module remained unchanged
even after bending [33]. QR-LPD® showed metal elec-
trode PET base flexible display of 320 × 192, 80 ppi. Roll-
to-roll manufacturing process applied to low cost PET
films [18]. E-ink MobiusTM is one of the best examples of
a flexible electrophoretic display for commercial appli-
cations. Instead of fragile glass-based TFTs, it provides
plastic-based TFT for flexibility, and can significantly
reduce the incidence of display failure due to dropping or
strain [34].
Also, electrofluidic pixels are particularly well suited to
flexible display applications. Polymer backplanes, such as
PET and poly (ethylene naphthalate) (PEN) backplanes,
can be used as flexible base substrates. e structure is
patterned by photolithography to create reservoirs and
ducts (Fig.5b) [25].
Fig. 4 Technologies for electrochromic displays. a Assembly configuration of an electrochromic display and material for each part. b Photographs
of an electrochromic glasses at 1.0 V and + 1.0 V with brown blend of orange and periwinkle. c (i) Photographs for three different states of an
electrochromic gel: bleached at 0.00 V, blue at 0.70 V and red at 0.80 V. (ii) Transient profiles in optical properties with constant applied voltages
(Figure reproduced from a [28], Copyright 2015, The Author(s); b [30], Copyright 2015, American Chemical Society; c [31], Copyright 2016, American
Chemical Society)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Electrochromic devices are among the most promis-
ing candidates for flexible passive displays. As ion gels
have high ionic conductivity and good chemical stability
at room temperature, they can contain electrochromic
materials [3538]. Multicolored flexible electrochromic
devices were fabricated using ITO-coated PET film and
demonstrated a color change at 0.70V with bending
(Fig.5c). is was accomplished by adding electrochro-
mic viologen chromophores and a ferrocene electron
source to the gels [31].
For another type of flexible electrochromic dis-
play, woven stainless mesh and Lycra spandex impreg-
nated with poly (3, 4-ethylenedioxythiophene): poly
(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT-PSS) were used as conduc-
tive fabric electrodes (Fig.5di, ii). Electrochromic poly-
mers with gel electrolyte were prepared on the surface
of the fabric electrodes. e electrochromic reaction in
polymer displayed different colors between neutral and
oxidized states [39] (Fig.5diii).
3 Active reective display
Active displays change their color when stretched or
compressed, and this feature is originated from mecha-
nochromic materials that respond to mechanical stimuli.
e mechanochromic materials visualize mechanical
deformation with color changes and enable the active
Fig. 5 Passive reflective displays with flexibility. a Schematic diagram of the top‑gate organic thin film transistors (OTFT) device structure.
Flexibility of a 6 electrophoretic display is demonstrated. b A flexible electrofluidic display fabricated on a PET backplane and its pixels in the off
and on states. c (i) Schematic illustration of fabrication processes for a flexible, patterned, multicolored electrochromic display on plastic sheet by
using the ‘cut‑and‑stick method. (ii) Its bleached (at 0.00 V) and colored (at 0.70 V) states under a bending deformation. d (i) PEDOT‑PSS based
electrochromic reaction. (ii) A schematic diagram of an electrochromic device on a fabric. (iii) An image of patterned electrochromic fabric in neutral
(top) and oxidized (bottom) states (Figure reproduced from a [33], Copyright 2015, The Society for Information Display; b [25], Copyright 2010, The
Society for Information Display; c [31], Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society; d [39], Copyright 2010, American Chemical Society)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
displays to be utilized as sensing agents. For examples,
by being combined with human, the mechanochromic
active displays can measure stress or strain exerted by
human body and exhibit visual warning signs when they
are highly stressed or strained. ese characteristic make
the display be readily exploited for the applications where
real-time interactivity is more required than unilateral
information delivery, such as sports industry or medical
application. In this part, the mechanochromic reflective
materials and driving mechanisms for active reflective
display will be reviewed.
3.1 Mechanochromic materials foractive reective display
3.1.1 Spiropyran embedded mechanochromic polymer
Spiropyran is a well-characterized photochromic mate-
rial that changes color upon UV exposure [4043]. is
material has been studied extensively, with features
including responsiveness to various stimuli, i.e., temper-
ature [44], pH [45, 46], solvent polarity [47], metal ions
[48], and ultrasound [49]. In 2009, Davis and coworkers
were the first to propose spiropyran-embedded mecha-
nochromic polymers, in which mechanical force provides
the activation energy for the chemical reactions neces-
sary for color change [50]. e polymer was fabricated
by directly linking spiropyran into the polymer chain
of poly(methyl acrylate) or poly(methyl methacrylate)
(PEGMA). By applying mechanical strain, the bulk pol-
ymer causes a ring-opening reaction of spiropyran with
cleavage at the spiro C–O bond, which induces spiro-
pyran to change into the highly colored merocyanine.
Due to the change in molecular structure, a distinct red
color gradually replaces the original yellow color as the
polymer is stretched (Fig.6a). rough a similar mechan-
ochromic mechanism, a color change from colorless pol-
ymer to blue colored polymer was realized by O’Bryan
etal. [51]. ey embedded photochromic indolinospiro-
pyran into poly e-caprolactone to obtain mechanochro-
mic characteristics. e synthetic polymer undergoes
transitions from spiropyran to blue-colored merocyanine
due to mechanical force-induced activation (Fig.6b). e
sharp color transitions facilitate the use of bulk polymer
for visible state detection, and the mapping of mechanical
stresses upon strain. Moreover, to achieve highly notice-
able visual signals, Barbee and coworkers exploited a pat-
terning technique for mechanochromic polymers [52].
ey fabricated a spiropyran-embedded polydimethylsi-
loxane (PDMS) elastomer that displays the word “STOP”
in purple when a critical strain is reached (Fig.6c).
3.1.2 1‑D photonic crystals asmechanochromic materials
Photonic crystals (PCs) have been considered attrac-
tive candidates because they can emit vivid and stimu-
lating colors by modulating incident light at specific
wavelengths (e.g., morpho butterfly wings and opals)
[53]. It is well known that the colors of morpho butter-
flies are derived from wing ridges containing nanostruc-
tures, as shown in Fig. 7b [54]. ere are alternating
layers of air and natural material in the form of lamellas.
Incident light is then reflected at the interfaces between
the two materials, which have different reflective indi-
ces. Following constructive interference of specific wave-
lengths of light, a colored structure appears. To mimic
the colors of nature, there has been intensive research on
synthetic PCs in the form of one-dimensional (1D) and
three-dimensional (3D) periodic structures. Due to the
simple structures of 1D PCs, numerous studies have been
reported on the use of techniques such as multilayer dep-
osition [5557] and focused-ion-beam-chemical vapor
deposition (FIB-CVD) [58]. Self-assembled high-molecu-
lar-weight block copolymers (BCPs) have also been used
as a material platform for creating 1D photonic crystal
structures [5962]. One of the most studied materials is
polystyrene-b-poly(2-vinyl pyridine) (PS-b-P2VP). Kang
etal. demonstrated a broad range of color-tunable lamella
structures with alternating nonswellable glassy PS layers
and soft swellable P2VP [60]. ey exploited quaterniza-
tion to induce conversion of the P2VP microdomains into
swellable polyelectrolyte layers. ese polyelectrolyte soft
photonic layers contribute to mechanochromic behavior.
Chan etal. demonstrated color changes in lamella BCP
by applying mechanical stress that leads to changes in
the soft P2VP layer due to compression (Fig.7c, d) [59].
In the same manner, 1D BCP PCs that exhibit mecha-
nochromic properties under stretching were demon-
strated by Part etal. (Fig.7e). ey used PDMS elastomer
as a substrate for the BCP layer and demonstrated that
mechanochromic BCP achieves the full visible color
range upon application of up to 100% uniaxial strain [62].
Another promising self-assembled system for 1D PCs is
lamella structures of hydrogels (Fig.7f). ese photonic
hydrogels contain a lipid layer made of hydrophobic
poly(dodecyl glyceryl itaconate) (PDGI) bilayers in a pol-
yacrylamide matrix (PAAm). By applying strain, the dis-
tance between the PAAm layer is easily tuned due to the
soft properties of the gel. is leads to a dynamic color
change from the transparent state to red, green and blue
(Fig.7g). Also, this hydrogel can support > 2000% strain
due to the non-covalent hydrophobic associations of the
lipid layer, which serve as sacrificial bonds for energy dis-
sipation. is means that they can be readily utilized as
mechanochromic materials [6365].
3.1.3 3‑D photonic crystals asmechanochromic materials
ere have been many attempts to achieve mechano-
chromic behavior using 3D PCs in addition to 1D PCs
[6669]. Predominantly, 3D PCs are fabricated using
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
synthetic opals with self-assembled polystyrene or silica
colloids. e fabricated opal templates have subwave-
length periodic structures that exhibit the reflected
interference color, but the color from the opal structure
does not change reversibly due to plastic deformation.
To achieve color tunability, Fudouzi et al. [67] infil-
trated elastomeric precursors into opal templates and
then crosslinked them to ensure reversible color change
upon mechanical stimulation. e polystyrene beads
were embedded in PDMS, which was swollen to keep
the particles separate. is ensures that the PC elasto-
mer can modulate the interparticle distance easily and
reversibly upon mechanochromic color change (Fig.8a,
b). Yang etal. [69] tuned the lattice distance sensitively
by using soft gel materials as matrices for opal struc-
tures. ey prepared highly responsive mechanochro-
mic photonic gels by embedding SiO2 particles in poly
(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDMA) gel and
demonstrated its mechanical sensitivity and revers-
ibility (Fig.8c). By applying various mechanical stimuli,
such as pushing, pressing and bending, photonic gels
sequentially exhibit red, green and blue colors due to
their mechanochromic properties (Fig.8d).
Fig. 6 Mechanochromic spiropyran based polymers that change color after stretching. a Spiropyran(SP) embedded poly(methyl acrylate) exhibits
color change from yellow to red by ring opening reaction induced by applied strain. b Indolinospiropyran‑poly(e‑caprolactone) films turned to blue
colored merocyanine form by mechanical force‑induced bonds rearrangements. c Spiropyran embedded PDMS elastomer is patterned on a PDMS
substrate and show a word “STOP” after a deformation (Figure reproduced from a [50], Copyright 2009, Springer Nature; b [51], Copyright 2010,
American Chemical Society; c [52], Copyright 2018)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
3.2 Electroactive reective displays using
mechanochromic materials
3.2.1 Electrochemical swelling driven color change displays
ere have been many approaches to the integration of
PCs into devices, where electrical signals can be used to
control reflective colors easily and finely, in a continu-
ous manner, for technological applications. One such
approach is to exploit electrochemical reactions, which
induce swelling of the soft layers of PCs, thus resulting
in color change [7074]. Walish etal. presented a bio-
inspired electroactive PC display using electrochemical
reactions [70]. ey utilized a PS-b-P2VP BCP as a 1D
PC to imitate cephalopod multilayer proteins that can
change color dynamically. e color tuning on a syn-
thetic PC progresses in a simple electrochemical cell con-
taining lamella gel that is swollen in an electrolyte and
sandwiched by an ITO-coated glass substrate (Fig. 9a).
When voltages are applied to the cell, the trifluoroetha-
nol (TFE) electrolyte is converted into trifluoroethox-
ide ions (TFX) at the interface of the electrode, which
decreases the thickness of the P2VP layer because TFX
does not swell the P2VP domains (Fig.9bi). As the volt-
age increases, the initial red color gradually changes into
the shorter wavelength colors of green and blue due to
shrinkage of the P2VP layer (Fig.9bii). Likewise, electro-
chemical swelling can be applied to 3D PCs to change the
color displayed. An electrochemical cell based on a silica
opal array in polyferrocenylsilane (PFS) was presented by
Arsenault etal. (Fig.9ci) [73]. ey used electrochemical
reactions to oxidize PC-embedded PFS matrix, resulting
in the loss of electrons. Subsequently, to neutralize the
positively charged components of the PFS, anions from
the electrolyte are driven into the oxidized PFS matrix.
Due to the influx of ions, the PFS matrix becomes more
Fig. 7 1D Photonic crystals for mechanochromic applications a Structural color from morpho butterfly wings. b Morpho ridges and lamella
structures with alternating layers of air and natural material. c 1D photonic crystals with a PS‑b‑P2VP block copolymer. d Mechanochromic color
changes of the block copolymer as a function of compression. e Block copolymer embedded PDMS elastomer changes color from red to blue by
applied stretch. f Lamella structure of poly(dodecyl glycidyl itaconate) lipid bilayer/poly acrylamide hydrogel. g Mechanochromic demonstration
of the hydrogel (Figure reproduced from a [53], Copyright 2003, Springer Nature; b [54], Copyright 2017, Springer Nature; c, d [59], Copyright 2011
WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA; e [62], Copyright 2018, The Author(s), f,g [65], Copyright 2011, American Chemical Society)
Page 11 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
swollen with the solvent, which leads to a change in
the inter-particle distance, thus causing a color change
(Fig.9cii). To improve the color switching time of the 3D
photonic electrochemical system, Daniel at all exploited
a 3D inverse opal structure [74]. Compared to the opal
structure, the electrolytes can easily permeate the inverse
opal due to the absence of particles. e preparation pro-
cess for the inverse opal polymer was based on etching
of the silica particles in PFS matrix by hydrofluoric acid
(Fig. 9di). en, the inverse opal layer was introduced
between the two electrodes, including an electrolyte.
When voltages were applied to the integrated cell, the
electrochemically driven swelling caused various colors
to be displayed (Fig.9dii).
3.2.2 Electrokinetic driven reective displays
Electrochemical swelling-driven systems tend to have
long response times because they are governed by sol-
vent diffusion inside polymers. e diffusion processes
can be very slow, even in a bulk sample. Distinct from
these systems, electrokinetic-driven systems have been
developed with relatively faster color change responses
[7578]. Electrokinetic photonic systems have highly
charged photonic particles in a liquid medium and the
interparticle distance is controlled by an electric field
(Fig.10a). When the electric field is applied, charged
particles are attracted to an electrode until the repul-
sion force between the particles compensates for the
electrokinetic force induced by the voltage, which
causes the color to change. ese electrokinetic-driven
color changes were demonstrated with sulfonated PS
beads by Shim et al. Reflective colors are delicately
tuned by controlling the applied direct current (DC)
voltages (Fig.10b). e peak positions of the reflected
wavelength were measured as a function of time under
different DC bias excitations (Fig.10c). When the volt-
ages were applied to the device, the reflection peak was
shifted almost instantly, i.e., within 1s, and the color
became saturated after several seconds [75]. In addition
to the faster responses and wider photonic colors of
Fig. 8 3D photonic crystals for mechanochromic applications. a Scheme of 3D photonic crystal with reversible lattice of polystyrene beads in a
PDMS matrix. The lattice is controlled by stretching or releasing PDMS matrix. b Peak positions of reflected wavelength are shifted by elongating the
photonic crystal embedded PDMS. c An illustration of silica particle arrays under deformation. Optical microscope images of 3D photonic crystal
embedded PEGMA gel under pushing or pulling. d 3 × 3 pixels with the PEGMA photonic crystal gel (Figure reproduced from a, b [67], Copyright
2006, American Chemical Society; c, d [69], Copyright 2014, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
electrokinetic-driven systems, there have been attempts
to exploit particles with high dielectric constants. It is
well known that the high dielectric constant of a parti-
cle (except a magnetic particle) contributes to the high
migration speed of charged particles and enhances the
light scattering at the interface between particles and
a medium due to a large refractive contrast. Fu etal.
demonstrated faster electrical responsiveness and a
broader spectrum of colors by exploiting cerium oxide
(CeO2) particles in an electrokinetic photonic system.
A monodisperse CeO2 particle was synthesized and
analyzed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and transmis-
sion electron microscopy (TEM) (Fig. 10d). rough
XRD and TEM, we ensured that CeO2 particles had a
Fig. 9 Electrochemical swelling driven color changes in photonic crystal systems. a Bio‑inspired electroactive color changing 1D photonic crystal
display. (i) Digital image of a cephalopod, (ii) protein based multilayer, (iii) A simple electrochemical cell is fabricated by introducing an electrolyte
and lamella photonic gel between two ITO coated glass substrates. (iv) a lamella structure of PS‑b‑P2VP block copolymer. b Mechanism of the
electrochemical color change, and optical images of the device with various electric potentials. c (i) Schematic of an electrochemical cell with
3D opal photonic crystals in polyferrocenylsilane (PFS) matrix. (ii) Electrochemical induced swelling leads to color change in the photonic crystal.
d (i) Preparation process of PFS‑based inverse opal structure. (ii) The inverse opal based photonic crystal is operated electrochemically (Figure
reproduced from a, b [70], Copyright 2009, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; c [73], Copyright 2007, Springer Nature; d [74],
Copyright 2009, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
face-centered cubic crystalline structure with a high
dielectric constant and an average particle diameter of
154nm. As the particle surface of CeO2 is positively
charged during the synthesis process, CeO2 particles in
propylene-carbonate liquid medium move towards the
cathode when an electric field is applied (Fig.10ei). For
precise control of particles in electrokinetic systems,
CeO2 was coated with a negatively charged silica thin
layer. e silica-coated CeO2 particles exhibit highly
saturated structure colors with broad color tunability,
Fig. 10 Electrokinetic driven 3D photonic crystals a Schematic representation of the changes in an array of charged particles under different
electric fields. b Changes in reflective colors exhibited by a single device with various voltage bias. c Profiles of peak reflectance as a function of
time under different DC bias excitation. d (i) A digital photo of CeO2 particles. (ii) a X‑ray diffraction pattern of CeO2 particles. (iii) a TEM image of
CeO2 particles. e (i) Working mechanism of the electrically tunable photonic crystals prepared from propylene carbonate solution of CeO2, SiO2,
and SiO2 coated CeO2 colloidal particles. (ii) Optical microscope images for the photonic crystal under various voltages. (iii) CIE color space showing
tunable range of photonic colors in different electric fields (Figure reproduced from a [76], Copyright 2013, The Royal Society of Chemistry; b, c [75],
Copyright 2010, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; d, e [77], Copyright 2018, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
Page 14 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
as shown in CIE color space, when different voltages
are applied (Fig.10eii, iii) [77].
3.2.3 Electromechanically driven color change displays
Among electroactive polymers, dielectric elastomer actu-
ators (DEA) [7981] have attracted much attention due
to their capacity to induce larger areal strains than exist-
ing electroactive polymers. is points to the possibility
of integrating them with mechanochromic materials to
achieve color changes. Kim etal. presented soft photonic
devices fabricated by integrating DEA with 3D photonic
organogel, which displays red, green and blue colors,
by controlling the electric field (Fig. 11a). When volt-
ages are applied to DEA, Maxwell stress occurs first, on
the dielectric layer, and physical deformation due to the
stress is conveyed to the contacting photonic gel, leading
to a change in lattice distance (Fig.11b). Photonic colors
are reversibly modulated by tuning the DC voltages
(Fig.11c). ey also demonstrate sound generation from
the photonic device by exploiting the features of the color
change mechanism based on the eletromechanical force,
which enables the device to generate acoustic vibrations
at higher frequencies (Fig.11d). Sound wave composed
of piano notes was used as an input signal for demonstra-
tion. en, output sound from the device was recorded
using a microphone and analyzed with a short-time
Fourier transformation (Fig.11e, f) [82]. Another study
on the use of mechanochromic materials on DEA was
reported by Qiming etal. ey made an electro-mech-
ano-chemically responsive (EMCR) elastomer contain-
ing spiropyran moieties. e elastomer layer is bonded to
the buffer elastomer, which is in contact with an insulat-
ing layer to prevent electrical breakdown on the device
(Fig.11g). By applying voltages to the electrodes, large
deformations occur on the elastomer layer, in a wrinkle
pattern. is activates the ring opening reaction of spiro-
pyran and causes the color to change (Fig.11h) [83].
4 Strategies forstretchable reective display
4.1 Polymeric substrates forstretchable reective display
For stretchable displays, substrate technology is required
to move beyond the conventional realm of rigid metals
and ceramics. Hence, studies on polymer substrates are
currently underway. Polymer substrates for displays must
possess some optical and thermal properties, such as
glass like transmittance (> 85%) and low constant of ther-
mal expansion (CTE) [84, 85]. Most of all, it is important
that the substrates have non-rigid mechanical properties,
including elasticity.
Soft elastomeric substrates can be a good option for
stretchable displays. However, these materials are not
easy to handle due to their low-dimensional stabil-
ity, so a careful and delicate process is required during
their fabrication or usage. Hence, prior to developing
stretchable displays, flexible displays were studied using
transparent and flexible polymers with relatively large
dimensional stability in comparison to elastomers. PET is
a typical polymer substrate for flexible displays due to its
outstanding flexibility (can be bent over a 1-in diameter
1000 times), affordable price, high transparency (> 85%),
and chemical resistance [84, 86, 87]. Many flexible dis-
plays use PET for substrates [18, 35] (Fig.12a, b). How-
ever, PET exhibits relatively large CTEs in comparison
to ceramics and metals because thermoplastic polymers
have weak crosslinkings between chains [85]. Hence,
obtaining lower CTEs for improved thermal stability has
been an issue. For example, poly amide-imide thermo-
plastic film with a lower CTE (~ 4ppm/°C) is obtained
by changing the ratio of two isomeric monomers without
losing the high transmittance [85] (Fig.12c).
As stretchable displays have started to attract the
attention of the industrial world due to their potential
applicability to human–machine interfaces, researchers
have tried to apply established display technologies to
stretchable materials. However, polymeric substrates for
flexible displays have excessive Young’s moduli preclud-
ing applications to stretchable displays (GPa scale; typi-
cally 5 GPa for PET). New polymers are now needed for
stretchable displays, and several transparent elastomers
have been proposed as strong candidate substitutes for
conventional thermoplastic substrates. PDMS has many
favorable properties, such as biocompatibility, transpar-
ency, high electrical resistivity (~ 2.9 × 1014 Ωcm) and
low Young’s modulus (~ 1MPa) [88, 89]. It is therefore
widely used in electronics, microfluidics and many other
fields. Another candidate is polyurethane (PU), which
has a low Young’s modulus (~ 5MPa), large tear strength
and abrasion resistance, which is required for devices
that are frequently exposed to scratches or impact [89].
Both elastomers have been used as substrates for stretch-
able displays [90, 91] (Fig.12d, e). However, there are still
challenges to be addressed before these attractive poly-
mers can be used as substrates for stretchable displays.
For example, PDMS and PU exhibit larger CTE values
(typically about 480ppm/°C for PDMS, 90–100ppm/°C
for PU) even compared to PET. More importantly, the
best way to secure sufficient dimensional stability for
actual devices, despite their low elastic modulus, is
not well understood. Trials to solve such issues will be
required before we can use stretchable displays in practi-
cal applications.
4.2 Stretchable electrodes forelectrochemical reaction
driven stretchable display systems
Electrochromic displays require electrodes that can
exchange electrons, thus enabling electrochemical
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
reactions. However, transparent electrodes, such as
conventional ITO/PET complexes, are not suitable for
stretchable displays because they can fail even under
small strains. us, there have been some studies on
how to fabricate material that is transparent and has
sufficient electrical conductivity. Such properties have
been achieved using silver nanowires (AgNWs) (Fig.13a)
embedded in the surface layer of polymers. Stretchable,
transparent composites were synthesized with an AgNW
network and crosslinked poly(acrylate) matrix [92]. is
composite has a surface conductance and transparency
comparable to that of ITO. e sheet resistance of the
Fig. 11 Electromechanically driven mechanochromic polymers. a Structure of electromechanical photonic crystals using dielectric elastomer
actuator. b Photonic organogel is electrically operated with Maxwell stress induced by a DC bias, which results in areal expansion of the photonic
gel. c Digital images show various colors from red to blue. d The electromechanical photonic device can generate sound in the audible frequency
regime. e Piano notes to be programmed as an input signal to the device and recorded sound waves from a microphone. f A short‑time
Fourier transformation data, allowing for visualization of the frequencies over time. g Schematic structures for electro‑mechano‑chemically
responsive(EMCR) color change displays. h Mechanism for the device using mechanochromic spiropyran materials. The applied voltages induce
a large deformation in the elastomer, which causes ring open reaction of spiropyran resulting in color change (Figure reproduced from af [82],
Copyright 2018, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; g, h [83], Copyright 2014, Springer Nature)
Page 16 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
composite increased 2.3 times at 50% strain compared to
its normal state (Fig.13b) [92]. Furthermore, composites
with conductive filler materials like carbon nanotubes
(CNTs) [93], elastic conductors and metal nanoparti-
cles can be exploited for stretchable electrodes with ten-
sile strength over 100%. However, these materials have
a rather high sheet resistance, of 100–1000 Ohm/sq at
80% optical transmittance. e sheet resistance, trans-
mittance, and stretchability of the composite electrodes
was compared to various conducting materials such as
AgNWs, silver coating, single-wall carbon nanotubes
(SWNTs), graphene, and ITO. e normalized resist-
ance increased with the applied strain due to geometric
changes during stretching (Fig.13di). e transmittance
of the material decreases with the sheet resistance
(Fig.13dii) [92].
Transparency and conductivity are both important
for the top electrode of the stretchable display. us, it
is possible to construct a structure with electrochromic
materials sandwiched between two electrodes with suf-
ficient transparency, conductivity, and mechanical prop-
erties (Fig.13d). ere have been some cases in which
electrochromic molecules were combined with stretch-
able substrates [94, 95]. Stretchable electrochromic
devices based on an AgNW/PDMS elastic conductor
have been reported (Fig. 13dii) with an electrochemi-
cally deposited WO3 active layer. Fast coloration (1s) and
bleaching (4s) times were achieved, and functioning at a
50% stretched state was demonstrated (Fig.13e).
4.3 Ionic conductors forelectric eld driven stretchable
display systems
ere is the other system driving stretchable reflective
displays that control and display colors by an electric
field. Electric field-, rather than electron transport-driven
systems have dielectric layers separating two electrodes,
like a capacitor. In this case, in which only electric fields
are exploited, ionic conductors can replace electrodes,
which allows the system to take advantage of ionic con-
ductors. Sun etal. demonstrated the operation of an elec-
troactive device without electrochemical reactions by
taking advantage of ionic conductors[96]. Electrochemi-
cal reactions are a major concern when ions are exploited
in conjunction with applied voltages. e device with
capacitor structures is transparent in the visible light
range and exhibits electrical actuation with areal stretch-
ing when voltages are applied (Fig.14a).
Fig. 12 Polymeric substrates for stretchable displays. a Flexible E‑paper display(QR‑LPD®) fabricated on PET substrate. b Flexible electrochromic
display on ITO coated PET substrate during dynamic bending test. c Picture of a poly amide‑imide film with low CTE(~ 4 ppm/ °C) and high
transparency. d Schematic structure of photonic crystal fiber and color change at given strain. Polystyrene particles are coated on PDMS core. e
Stretchable electrochromic device fabricated on polyurethane(PU) substrate (Figure reproduced from a [18], Copyright 2006, Society for Information
Display; b [35], Copyright 2019, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; c [85], Copyright 2018, The Author(s); d [90], Copyright 2015,
WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; e [91], Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society)
Page 17 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Fig. 13 Stretchable electrodes and structure for stretchable electrochromic displays. a A SEM image of the AgNWs on a glass substrate. b
Stretchability of a AgNW electrode is demonstrated with a light‑emitting diode. c Electrical and optical properties of stretchable electrodes.
(i) Normalized resistance as a function of applied strain. (ii) Transmittance versus sheet resistance. d (i) Possible structure of the stretchable
electrochromic device. (ii) An example with AgNW/PDMS and WO3. e Patterned electrochromic device in bleached and colored states at 0 and 50%
strain (Figure reproduced from ac [92], Copyright 2012, IOP Publishing Ltd; d(ii) and e [94], Copyright 2013, America Chemical Society)
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Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Hydrogel ionic conductors have lower sheet resist-
ance and maintain high transmittance with relatively
insensitive resistance changes under stretching in com-
parison to other electrodes, such as AgNWs, SWNTs,
ITO and graphene (Fig.14b). Also, ionic conductors are
highly stretchable, easy to make and inexpensive, which
is important for the fabrication of commercial stretch-
able displays. us, a design for stretchable reflective
displays using ionic conductors has been proposed
(Fig. 14c). By introducing colorants such as pigments
or mechanochromic materials between the transparent
dielectric elastomer, a colored dielectric layer can be fab-
ricated. Subsequently, the layer is sandwiched between
two transparent ionic conductors with a stretchable sub-
strate. Even though the design seems feasible for stretch-
able reflective displays, no demonstrations have yet been
reported during the current development phase of reflec-
tive displays, which has proven slower than the develop-
ment phase of emissive displays. A similar design using
electroluminescent materials was presented for stretch-
able emissive displays by Larson etal. (Fig.14d) [97]. e
display consists of an electroluminescent dielectric layer
that is fabricated by mixing zinc sulfide phosphor into
EcoFlex. e dielectric layer is then sandwiched between
two ionic conductors and operated by applying a voltage,
and emits white light continuously even under uniaxial
stretching to over 395% strain (Fig.14e). Also, by using
a patterning technique, stretchable multicolor displays
have been demonstrated under mechanical deformation
(Fig.14f) [98]. In the same manner, reflective materials
that are used in electrophoretic, electrokinetic and elec-
tromechanical color change systems can be used in con-
junction with ionic conductors for stretchable reflective
4.4 Issues infabrication ofStretchable reective display
All stretchable displays are basically composites of soft
materials. Being similar to other stretchable emissive
displays, stretchable reflective displays are composed
of top/bottom substrates, two electrodes and a display
working layer. Such components are arranged vertically
in most displays, so layer-to-layer processes are typical
fabrication methods [99] (Fig. 15a). Bottom substrates
are prepared first, followed by a planarization process
if required. en, the lower electrode and display layer,
upper electrode and top substrate are laminated one by
one. Roll-to-roll manufacturing processes have been used
to product displays more efficiently. is process has high
throughput, and has already been adopted for flexible
reflective displays [18] (Fig.15b). In both processes men-
tioned, separating each pixel is important. Photolithogra-
phy can be used to pattern the grid for each pixel [100]
(Fig.15c). Also there are spacers in the display layer, to
separate each pixel. ese spacers are connected to both
upper/lower patterned electrodes, completely closing
each pixel [101] (Fig.15d). Here, the problem is that such
connections between different materials (i.e., between
substrates, electrodes, display layers or spacers) can be
vulnerable to mechanical failure or invasion by impuri-
ties when the display is stretched.
When stretched simultaneously, materials with differ-
ent moduli cause non-uniform stress fields. Hence, when
different materials are adhered to make a stretchable dis-
play, tight adhesion is necessary to prevent mechanical
failure. In stretchable displays, most structural materi-
als are elastomers, so adhesion between elastomers and
other materials is of paramount importance. e most
common way to adhere two different polymers is to use
chemical linkages. In Fig. 16a, conductive PEDOT:PSS
and PDMS are chemically linked by a poly (ethylene
glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) layer [102]. Such chemical
linkages can be applied to many other polymer/polymer
junctions. Simply mixing two materials is another com-
mon method for adhesion. Many stretchable electrodes
are produced in this way, dispersing nanomaterials like
CNTs or AgNWs into non-cured elastomers. Nanomate-
rials tend to aggregate with each other due to the van der
Waals force. In Fig.16b, aggregated CNTs are equally dis-
persed and embedded into PDMS by flow stress, form-
ing electrical networks between CNTs [103]. Another
type of adhesion is between elastomers and hydrogels.
Hydrogels with salts can act as ionic conductors, which
(See figure on next page.)
Fig. 14 Ionic conductors for stretchable reflective displays. a Transparent ionic conductors are exploited for DEAs without electrochemical reaction.
b Performance of hydrogel ionic conductor exhibiting relatively insensitive resistance change upon stretching with a high transparency comparing
to other electrodes. c A design for stretchable reflective display with ionic conductors. d A similar structure of electroluminescent display using
ionic conductors. e Luminescent behavior of the display under uniaxial stretching. f Patterned luminescent displays showing various colors under
a mechanical deformation (Figure reproduced from a, b [96], Copyright 2013, American Association for the Advancement of Science; d, e [96],
Copyright 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science; f [97], Copyright 2016, WILEY‑VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
Page 19 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Page 20 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
are transparent and stretchable. In this case, nanoparti-
cles can be used to absorb chains from both the elasto-
mer and hydrogel, linking them mechanically. In Fig.16c,
adhesion between very high bond (VHB) acrylic elasto-
mer and PAAm hydrogel is reinforced by the mechanical
linkages between silica nanoparticles [104].
Tight adhesion at inner interfaces is important for
mechanical stability. Similarly, tight sealing at the exter-
nal surface of a device is also very important for chemi-
cal stability. To prohibit molecules from passing through,
surface materials should have low permeability to water,
oxygen and any other materials. For example, hydrogel
can be coated with butyl rubber to prevent water from
evaporating [105]. Such coatings can protect entire dis-
plays from impurities, because butyl rubber has much
lower water and oxygen permeability than typical PDMS
and many of other elastomers [106]. Elastomers with low
elastic moduli and low permeability should be selected
as external coating materials to prevent the infiltration
of impurities [105], and reduce the risk of damage to the
stretchable reflective display (Fig.16d).
5 Conclusion
As human–machine interfaces are becoming increas-
ingly seamless, the demand for wearable displays is also
increasing. Reflective displays are strong candidates for
wearable displays due to outdoor readability, but being
stretchable is still a problem for wearable displays. We
have classified stretchable reflective displays into two
groups: stretch-insensitive passive displays and stretch-
sensitive active displays. Candidates for passive displays,
such as electrophoretic, electrofluidic, and electrochro-
mic displays, have already been demonstrated in a flex-
ible form, so passive displays are considered to be closer
to practical realization than active displays. Active dis-
plays are attracting much attention due to the interactiv-
ity between deformation by the user and the color of the
display. Many mechanochromic active displays are being
tested but are still at the experimental stage.
We have analyzed several strategies for fabricating
stretchable reflective displays. e ideal stretchable dis-
play is one in which every component is substituted with
stretchable material. Elastomers, ionic conductors and
stretchable electrodes with nanomaterials are all reason-
able options. It is true that there are many challenges
remaining for stretchable reflective displays. But, there
has certainly been incremental progress made towards
the development of stretchable materials and reflec-
tive displays. Even though stretchable displays are not
expected to materialize in the near future, they will be
achieved at some point. Given this potential, we implore
researchers to continue to study stretchable reflective
Fig. 15 Display fabrication processes and pixel structures. a Schematic process of layer‑to‑layer fabrication of the reflective display, reproduced
with permission. b Roll‑to‑roll process for liquid powder display fabrication. c ITO grid patterned by lithography. d Structure of electrophoretic
display with spacers (Figure reproduced from a [99], Copyright 2006, Society for Information Display; b [18], Copyright 2006, Society for Information
Display; c [101], Copyright 2010, American Chemical Society; d [101], Copyright 2005, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd)
Page 21 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Fig. 16 Adhesion and sealing issues. a PEDOT: PSS and PDMS is chemically linked by poly ethyleneglycol diacrylate (PEGDA). b CNT dispersion
into PDMS by flow stress. c (i) Bilayer of VHB 4910 (3 M) elastomer and hydrogel with silica nanoparticles, before and after debond. (ii) Nanoparticles
absorb chains between hydrogel and elastomer. (iii) Debond energies between VHB elastomer and various hydrogels are increased by silica
nanoparticles. d water permeability and elastic modulus of variety of materials (Figure reproduced from a [102], Copyright 2017, The Author(s); b
[103], Copyright 2014, The Author; c [104], Copyright 2016, The Royal Society of Chemistry; d [105], Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society)
Page 22 of 24
Kimetal. Nano Convergence (2019) 6:21
Not applicable.
Authors’ contributions
DYK, M‑JK, GS and J‑YS wrote manuscript. All authors designed figure sets and
analyzed literatures. J‑YS supervised the overall conception. All authors read
and approved the final manuscript.
This research was supported by Nano Material Technology Devel‑
opment Program through the National Research Founda‑
tion of Korea(NRF) funded by Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF‑
2018M3A7B4089670). D.Y.K. is supported by the National Research Foundation
of Korea (NRF) Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF‑2016‑Global
Ph.D. Fellowship Program).
Availability of data and materials
The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from
the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Author details
1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Seoul National University,
Seoul 151‑742, South Korea. 2 Research Institute of Advanced Materials (RIAM),
Seoul National University, Seoul 151‑744, South Korea.
Received: 22 April 2019 Accepted: 5 June 2019
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... The devices referred to above are still in the research stage and far from commercial, and several mature liquid crystal technologies have appeared on the market and have been applied to our daily life since its good switch ability, such as electronic paper (epaper) [102][103][104][105][106][107] and smart windows [108][109][110][111][112][113][114], especially the field related to the display, which has developed for nearly two decades. ...
... The preparation process of PDLC materials is usually to uniformly disperse low molecular nematic liquid crystals in transparent polymers, induce phase separation through photo-polymerization, thermal initiation or solvent volatilization and other methods, so that liquid crystals can precipitate from the polymer to form droplets, and uniformly disperse in the polymer network. When no voltage is applied, the ordinary light refractive index of the liquid crystal droplet is mismatched with the refractive index of the polymer with light scattering; when a certain voltage is applied, the LC is aligned along the electric field with light transmission [103].The research of e-paper is mainly divided into two directions: one is electronic paper optical alignment technology and especially focus on the limitation of exposure time, which has been summarized in [102,104]; another one is to make the displayer more functional and stretchable [105,106]. [92] and (b) MMI channel switching control [93]. Reprinted with permission from Refs. ...
... The devices referred to above are still in the research stage and far from commercial, and several mature liquid crystal technologies have appeared on the market and have been applied to our daily life since its good switch ability, such as electronic paper (e-paper) [102][103][104][105][106][107] and smart windows [108][109][110][111][112][113][114], especially the field related to the display, which has developed for nearly two decades. ...
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Liquid opens up a new stage of device tunability and gradually replaced solid-state devices and mechanical tuning. It optimizes the control method and improves the dynamic range of many optical devices, exhibiting several attractive features, such as rapid prototyping, miniaturization, easy integration and low power consumption. The advantage makes optical devices widely used in imaging, optical control, telecommunications, autopilot and lab-on-a-chip. Here, we review the tunable liquid devices, including isotropic liquid and anisotropic liquid crystal devices. Due to the unique characteristics of the two types of liquids, the tuning principles and tuning methods are distinguished and demonstrated in detail firstly and then some recent progress in this field, covering the adaptive lens, beam controller, beam filter, bending waveguide, iris, resonator and display devices. Finally, the limitations and future perspectives of the current liquid devices are discussed.
... Electrochromic displays are an alternative to EPDs and are a growing field in organic electronics. They are made with organic materials that are compatible with high-throughput techniques, have very low consumption, exhibit optical memory, and can be flexible and stretchable [5] . However, the available electrochromic displays can only switch between a transparent and absorptive state, which limits their possible technological applications. ...
... tive surfaces based on structural coloration of thin film cavi-Displays form an integral part of modern society while at the ties [4][5][6][7][8][9] or plasmonic [10][11][12][13][14][15] or dielectric metasurfaces. [16][17][18] These same time they are responsible for a significant part of our systems have further been combined with functional materials energy consumption. ...
... [1] In favorable contrast to these methods, metasurfaces have shown to be more robust to chemical deterioration, [2] can deliver high spatial resolution [3] and are potentially more economical and sustainable while still rendering colors that are vibrant and aesthetically gratifying. [4,5] As synthetic composites, metasurfaces can assume a variety of configurations and consist of different combinations of materials such as metals and dielectrics in either nanostructured or thin film forms. The components are specifically selected to create a surface with desired properties. ...
... Even their simple macroscopic observation can provide significant molecular insights into the properties of interfaces as well as those of the adjoining bulk phases. 1−3 A number of diverse technologies, from electrochemical energy conversion, 4 storage 5,6 and capacitive deionization (CDI) 7,8 to variable optics, 9−11 displays, 12,13 and lab-on-a-chip systems, 14,15 are driven by wetting processes which occur under the application of an external electric field, a phenomenon referred to as electrowetting. 16 Controlling wettability under these conditions is of paramount importance for product design, since any variations in wettability can have significant implications for the operation of the devices (such as lack of adhesion, 17,18 hysteresis, 19−21 and loss of electrochemical activity 22−24 ), resulting in performance decrease and/or failure. ...
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The unique layered structure of graphite with its tunable interlayer distance establishes almost ideal conditions for the accommodation of ions into its structure. The smooth and chemically inert nature of the graphite surface also means that it is an ideal substrate for electrowetting. Here, we combine these two unique properties of this material by demonstrating the significant effect of anion intercalation on the electrowetting response of graphitic surfaces in contact with concentrated aqueous and organic electrolytes as well as ionic liquids. The structural changes during intercalation/deintercalation were probed using in situ Raman spectroscopy, and the results were used to provide insights into the influence of intercalation staging on the rate and reversibility of electrowetting. We show, by tuning the size of the intercalant and the stage of intercalation, that a fully reversible electrowetting response can be attained. The approach is extended to the development of biphasic (oil/water) systems that exhibit a fully reproducible electrowetting response with a near-zero voltage threshold and unprecedented contact angle variations of more than 120° within a potential window of less than 2 V.
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Control of wetting on conducting surfaces using external stimuli such as electricity, underlies the operation of devices in a broad range of technologies including micro-/nano-fluidics, energy conversion/storage and filtration systems. Electrowetting is the change in contact angle of a liquid relative to its equilibrium value upon application of a potential bias. The phenomenon, being identified almost a century ago, is fundamentally an electrochemical process. However, the majority of the most recent research in this area focusses on electrowetting from the “applications” perspective. Device-based electrowetting uses substrates with insulating overlayers to eliminate charge transfer at the solid|liquid interface and hence suppress the electrochemical character of the overall process. In this short review, we focus on electrowetting directly on conductors and discuss the purely electrochemical aspects of the phenomenon along with the open questions related to this rejuvenated topic.
Smart materials are highly desirable over the recent decade due to the growing demand on complicated nature. Smart materials with stable stimuli‐responsive properties are widely applied in sensors, smart windows, displays, and chemical valves, but they are relatively rare. Most of the current chromic materials are triggered by one or two external stimuli, and only a few multi‐stimuli responsive instances still suffer by their restricting functional states, such as solution or polymer. To address these challenges, researchers are focusing their efforts on developing a new generation of multi‐stimulus responsive chromic materials. In this article, our group has adopted a new strategy for the synthesis of the multi‐stimuli responsive single polymeric material, which can be useful for different applications (such as thermochromism, photochromism, electrochromism, and solvatofluorochromism). Thiazolothiazole viologen (TTv)‐containing poly(2‐isopropyl‐2‐oxazoline) (PiPO) was synthesized using a one‐pot reaction where the living cationic polymer chains were reacted with thiazolothiazole viologen to produce multi‐stimuli responsive PiPO‐TTv. PiPO‐TTv‐based device demonstrated multi‐responsive properties due to the thermoresponsive properties of PiPO segments and photo‐, electro‐responsive properties of TTv monomer, respectively. PiPO‐TTv material, additionally exhibits fluorescence characteristics that makes it appealing for environmental and molecular biological sensor applications. Poly(2‐isopropyl‐2‐oxazoline) incorporating thiazolothiazole viologen is synthesized using a one‐pot reaction. The cationic polymer chains react with thiazolothiazole viologen and produce multi‐stimuli responsive PiPO‐TTv. PiPO‐TTv exhibits a noticeable response to various types of external stimuli, including heat, UV, electricity, and different solvents owing to the thermo‐responsive property of PiPO segments and photo‐, electro‐responsive properties of TTv moiety.
The electrophoretic displays (EPDs) have many advantages such as wide viewing angle, low power consumption, paper‐like reading experience, and so on. Making EPDs stretchable will lead to realize wearable displays for future IoT environment, therefore, we explored a stretchable EPD prototype based on carbon nanotube (CNT) doped hydrogel electrode with micro‐cavities.
The electrophoretic displays (EPDs) have many advantages such as wide viewing angle, low power consumption, paper‐like reading experience, and so on. Making EPDs stretchable will lead to realize wearable displays for future IoT environment, therefore, we explored a stretchable EPD prototype based on carbon nanotube (CNT) doped hydrogel electrode with micro‐cavities.
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With the rapid development of optoelectronic fields, electrochromic (EC) materials and devices have received remarkable attention and have shown attractive potential for use in emerging wearable and portable electronics, electronic papers/billboards, see-through displays, and other new-generation displays, due to the advantages of low power consumption, easy viewing, flexibility, stretchability, etc. Despite continuous progress in related fields, determining how to make electrochromics truly meet the requirements of mature displays (e.g., ideal overall performance) has been a long-term problem. Therefore, the commercialization of relevant high-quality products is still in its infancy. In this review, we will focus on the progress in emerging EC materials and devices for potential displays, including two mainstream EC display prototypes (segmented displays and pixel displays) and their commercial applications. Among these topics, the related materials/devices, EC performance, construction approaches, and processing techniques are comprehensively disscussed and reviewed. We also outline the current barriers with possible solutions and discuss the future of this field.
Photonic materials with a periodic change of refractive index show unique optical properties through wavelength-selective diffraction and modulation of the optical density of state, which is promising for various optical applications. In particular, photonic structures have been produced in the format of microparticles using emulsion templates to achieve advanced properties and applications beyond those of a conventional film format. Photonic microparticles can be used as a building block to construct macroscopic photonic materials, and the individual microparticles can serve as miniaturized photonic devices. Droplet microfluidics enables the production of emulsion drops with a controlled size, composition, and configuration that serve as the optimal confining geometry for designing photonic microparticles. This feature article reviews the recent progress and current state of the art in the field of photonic microparticles, covering all aspects of microfluidic production methods, microparticle geometries, optical properties, and applications. Two distinct bottom-up approaches based on colloidal assembly and liquid crystals are, respectively, discussed and compared.
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Blue light is a major component of visible light and digital displays. Over-exposure to blue light could cause retinal damage. However, the mechanism of its damage is not well defined. Here, we demonstrate that blue light (900 lux) impairs cell viability and induces cell apoptosis in retinal neurocytes in vitro. A DNA electrophoresis assay shows severe DNA damage in retinal neurocytes at 2 h after blue light treatment. γ-H2AX foci, a specific marker of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), is mainly located in the Map2-posotive neuron other than the glia cell. After assaying the expression level of proteins related to DNA repair, Mre11, Ligase IV and Ku80, we find that Ku80 is up-regulated in retinal neurocytes after blue light treatment. Interestingly, Ku80 is mainly expressed in glia fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive glia cells. Moreover, following blue light exposure in vivo, DNA DSBs are shown in the ganglion cell layer and only observed in Map2-positive cells. Furthermore, long-term blue light exposure significantly thinned the retina in vivo. Our findings demonstrate that blue light induces DNA DSBs in retinal neurons, and the damage is more pronounced compared to glia cells. Thus, this study provides new insights into the mechanisms of the effect of blue light on the retina.
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Color, as perceived through the eye, transcends mere information in the visible range of electromagnetism and serves as an agent for communication and entertainment. Mechanochromic systems have thus far only aimed at satisfying the sense of vision and have overlooked the possibility of generating acoustic vibrations in concert with their visual color responses that would enable the simultaneous satisfaction of the auditory system. Transcending the boundaries of the two senses (i.e., sound and color), herein a strategy for their concurrent and synesthetic fulfillment is elucidated by electrically actuating an organogel photonic device, controlled by a single input signal. This new class of devices that integrate a color module with a speaker is fabricated from a mechanochromic layer that comprises close‐packed photonic lattice with an organogel matrix pervading the void fraction. Exploiting a dielectric elastomer actuator, the system's mechanical response permits the simultaneous, yet independent, exploration of visible‐light reflection alongside audible sound‐wave generation. Large areal strains at low frequencies of actuation tune the photonic stop‐band, whereas the layer remains incompressible and exhibits negligible strain when actuated at higher frequencies (e.g., tens of Hz), thereby making it amenable to modulate sound and color simultaneously yet independently. Soft photonic organogel devices are presented to realize synesthetic perception of sound and color. The integration of a mechanochromic organogel with a dielectric elastomer enables the device to display a targeted color simultaneously generating vibration for sound. The device can be operated via a single input control with merged DC and AC biases, presenting a way to satisfy both hearing and vision.
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Color displays are viewed in ambient conditions ranging from indoor lighting to bright sunlight. For emissive displays such as phones or tablets, color and readability are disturbed by ambient light reflected from the screen. However, ambient light is required to view e‐paper, so color measurements must be reflection‐based. This article describes how a bidirectional reflectance distribution function‐based methodology for measuring the disturbing reflection on emissive displays has been applied to measure the useful reflection from e‐paper displays. These measurements have been embedded in recently developed optical measurement standards for e‐paper that contain color measurement specifications for spectral reflection and—if a front light is present—spectral radiance of each displayed color. Then the measurements are combined with ambient illumination models to predict how display colors would appear in realistic lighting conditions. Although developed for e‐paper, this concept can be applied to any type of color display. Examples illustrate the standard measurement methodology, and how to predict displayed colors on both handheld e‐paper and emissive displays in both indoor and daylight viewing conditions.
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The key component currently missing for the next generation of transparent and flexible displays is a high-performance polymer material that is flexible, while showing optical and thermal properties of glass. It must be transparent to visible light and show a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). While specialty plastics such as aromatic polyimides are promising, reducing their CTE and improving transparency simultaneously proved challenging, with increasing coloration the main problem to be resolved. We report a new poly(amide-imide) material that is flexible and displays glass-like behavior with a CTE value of 4 parts per million/°C. This novel polymer was successfully used as a substrate to fabricate transparent and flexible indium-gallium-zinc oxide thin-film transistors.
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Monodisperse CeO2 and CeO2@SiO2 particles with controllable size and surface charge are synthesized on large scale by polyol and sol–gel reactions. These particles and the traditional SiO2 particles are dispersed in propylene carbonate to form three kinds of electrically tunable liquid photonic crystals (PCs). Due to the intrinsic relationship between the applied field strength and lattice constant, these liquid PCs show various structural colors across the visible spectrum under different electric fields. It is found that the large dielectric contrast between CeO2 or CeO2@SiO2 particles and propylene carbonate will render the liquid PC a wide photonic bandgap and highly saturated colors with little fading of reflection intensities in electric field, which address the problem of color fading for previous PCs with small dielectric contrast. Among them, only the CeO2@SiO2 based liquid PC simultaneously possesses broad tuning range and highly saturated colors in electric and angular tuning. Meanwhile, the highly dielectric particles also bring this liquid PC faster electrical response, more reproducible signals in on–off switching, and better stability for long‐time working. Based on this liquid PC, an electric cell array is fabricated to show dynamic pixel patterns under programmed electric field, which reveals its potentials for reflective‐mode display unit. Electrically tunable liquid photonic crystal prepared by CeO2@SiO2 particles and propylene carbonate possesses large dielectric contrast and wide photonic bandgap, which is used to fabricate high performance display unit with highly saturated structural colors in electric field.
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Recent technological advances in nanomaterials have driven the development of high‐performance light‐emitting devices with flexible and stretchable form factors. Deformability in such devices is mainly achieved by replacing the rigid materials in the device components with flexible nanomaterials and their assemblies (e.g., carbon nanotubes, silver nanowires, graphene, and quantum dots) or with intrinsically soft materials and their composites (e.g., polymers and elastomers). Downscaling the dimensions of the functional materials to the nanometer range dramatically decreases their flexural rigidity, and production of polymer/elastomer composites with functional nanomaterials provides light‐emitting devices with flexibility and stretchability. Furthermore, monolithic integration of these light‐emitting devices with deformable sensors furnishes the resulting display with various smart functions such as force/capacitive touch‐based data input, personalized health monitoring, and interactive human–machine interfacing. These ultrathin, lightweight, and deformable smart optoelectronic devices have attracted widespread interest from materials scientists and device engineers. Here, a comprehensive review of recent progress concerning these flexible and stretchable smart displays is presented with a focus on materials development, fabrication techniques, and device designs. Brief overviews of an integrated system of advanced smart displays and cutting‐edge wearable sensors are also presented, and, to conclude, a discussion of the future research outlook is given. The recent research developments and progress regarding flexible and stretchable smart displays are reviewed comprehensively. Important advancements concerning materials development, fabrication techniques, and device designs are summarized, compared, and discussed, with a detailed description of smart display applications. In addition, the outlook for future research in this field is discussed.
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Ultraflexible electronics have received extensive attention due to their favorable properties, such as superior mechanical robustness, light weight and good compatibility with large-area roll-to-roll fabrication. Here we present a flexible sandwiched tungsten trioxide/silver nanotrough network/poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)–poly(styrene sulfonate) multi-layer transparent conducting electrode with prominent conductivity (sheet resistance as low as 1.08 Ω sq⁻¹) and transparency (85%). In particular, the flexible transparent electrode exhibits excellent mechanical robustness upon bending and stretching. This hybrid electrode can be further adhered tightly to a layer of WO3 to form an electrochromic device, which simultaneously displays a rapid switching time (0.75 s/1.82 s for bleaching/coloring) and high cyclic performance (86% retention of the initial optical contrast after cycling for 30 000 s). In addition, our electrode can also be fabricated on various flexible substrates, such as polyethylene cling wrap, polydimethylsiloxane and Ecoflex, with sustained electrochromic properties after bending, twisting, stretching and even strong kneading. Our work provides new opportunities for the next generation of flexible and wearable electronics applied on various flexible substrates.
Soft and stretchable electronics are promising for a variety of applications such as wearable electronics, human-machine interfaces, and soft robotics. These devices, which are often encased in elastomeric materials, maintain or adjust their functionality during deformation, but can fail catastrophically if extended too far. Here, we report new functional composites in which stretchable electronic properties are coupled to molecular mechanochromic function, enabling at-a-glace visual cues that inform user control. These properties are realized by covalently incorporating a spiropyran mechanophore within poly(dimethylsiloxane) to indicate with a visible color change that a strain threshold has been reached. The resulting colorimetric elastomers can be molded and patterned so that, for example, the word "stop" appears when a critical strain is reached, indicating to the user that further strain risks device failure. We also show that the strain at color onset can be controlled by layering silicones with different moduli into a composite. As a demonstration, we show how color onset can be tailored to indicate a when a specified frequency of a stretchable liquid metal antenna has been reached. The multi-scale combination of mechanochromism and soft electronics offers a new avenue to empower user control of strain dependent properties for future stretchable devices.